x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Calls for coral off Musandam to be protected

A study argues that the reefs off of the Musandam Peninsula are important in terms of fishing and tourism.

DUBAI // The coral off the North of the Musandam Peninsula is arguably the best in the region, a study reveals - but it remains threatened and further conservation action is needed to safeguard it.

The reefs are a unique area of natural beauty and are commercially important in terms of fishing and tourism, although they are vulnerable to a number of factors, including pollution.

The report, Underwater Pioneers: Studying and protecting the unique coral reeds of the Musandam Peninsula, Oman, is based on findings obtained last October by volunteers from the UAE and elsewhere, who took part in a research project run by the Emirates Diving Association (EDA) and Biosphere Expeditions.

Co-author Rita Bento, a Dubai-based marine biologist who works for EDA, said the volunteers played a crucial role as it would not have been possible to gather enough marine biologists to collect the data.

"The most important point is the level of coral coverage we have in this area," she said. "The reefs in North Musandam have coral cover of 58 per cent, and if you compare that with other regions, or even here in the [Arabian] Gulf or the Gulf of Oman, that is amazing. We can statistically say there has been an increase from 2009 to 2011."

She said coral coverage in some areas off the UAE coast stood at just 20 to 30 per cent. But the team noted a slight increase in the number of parrotfish, which clear harmful algae from coral.

Co-author Dr Matthias Hammer, executive director of Biosphere Expeditions, said the organisation was pressing ahead with efforts to have the waters off Musandam declared a protected area.

csimpson@thenational.ae